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Intel wades into smartphone wars

Moorestown Atom claims ARM-busting chops

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Chandrasekher also wanted the assembled reporters to tell their readers that low power doesn't translate to low performance. To illustrate his point, he compared a Moorestown-based prototype smartphone with three unnamed smartphones in today's market. "These three devices are three of the best smartphones that are there in the market - best not necessarily by our measure, best as measured by you guys."

As might be expected in a demo, the Moorestown prototype smoked the competition. Chandrasekher claimed that the Moorestown smartphone achieved "an order of magnitude" edge in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, downloaded and displayed a webpage two to three times faster than those three "best" smartphones, and achieved two to four times better performance in the 3DMark Mobile ES 2.0 benchmark.

He also pointed out that Moorestown can display full 1080p HD playback at base profile, main profile, and high profile - all at 30fps, a feat that none of the "best" smartphones can accomplish, he claimed.

Of course, not knowing the provenance of the comparative phones makes Chandrasekher's claimed performance improvements hard to judge - but he was adamant about keeping their identities secret. "I will not [give] names - I know you are dying to get names - because we would actually like to have these guys as customers, and it probably wouldn't be in my best interests to piss them off."

Architecturally, Moorestown's details have been known for some time, as documented in detail by RegHardware back in October. In sum, the 45nm Lincroft compute core is joined by an on-chip bus interface (which has, like seemingly everything these days, a "turbo mode"), 3D graphics, display controller, video encode/decode circuitry, and memory controller. Burst compute performance is supported as well as hyperthreading.

The graphics and video circuitry are Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX and VXD respectively, Kuttanna told The Reg. The display circuitry can support 1366 x 768 resolution when using LVDS, and 1024 x 600 when using MIPI. Two cameras can be attached - a five-megapixel shooter and a VGA video-conferencer.

Lincroft - now dubbed the Atom Z6XX Series - will be available in speeds of up to 1.5GHz for smartphones and 1.9GHz for tablets. It's joined by the platform controller hub MP20, formerly Langwell, and the mixed-signal IC (MSIC) that was designed by Intel but is being manufactured by Freescale, Maxim, and Renesas.

As might be guessed, Chandrasekher thinks he has a winner on his hands. "We're delivering better performance - roughly 2 to 4X when you look at it across a range of benchmarks - and when you look at our power consumption we're effectively in the pack. On some things we're better, on some things we're worse, but overall we're in the pack."

He noted that the earliest devices will support Moblin and will later transition to MeeGo. "Expect to see Android devices hitting the market as well," he noted.

But despite his enthusiasm, Chandrasekher refused to say which smartphone vendors have climbed aboard Intel's new smartphone bandwagon:

"We're not going talk about customers today," he said. "The reason that we're not going to talk about customers is not because we don't have customers. We do - a lot of them. The reason I don't want to talk about customers today is [because] the customers in this domain are much more secretive about what they're doing with their products and their product timelines. And we'll respect that. And they will talk about their products on their own timeline."

Those timelines may be revealed soon. Chandrasekher said that the parts are in production now - "We've actually shipped for revenue already" - with devices due to appear beginning in the second half of this year. Pricing was not announced, though an Intel spokeswoman said that pricing will be comparable to typical smartphone-centric parts - to which Chandrasekher added: "We'll be competitive with our competitors." ®

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